As a child, Danish-born Peder Rosdal’s family teased him about visiting him at his winery and chateau when he grew up. Meanwhile, Lionel Flutto was growing up in Paris dreaming about one day owning a farm in a peaceful corner of France. Peder and Lionel are now wine producers with a vineyard, winery, cellar door, and a ‘chateau’ in a quiet peaceful corner of the Heathcote region, a long way from France and Denmark.
Peder’s first career was cheese maker. He spent six years in an industrial dairy and then moved into wine retailing. But he still dreamed about making wine. “In 2000 I did a vintage at Brown Brothers in Milawa as a cellar hand, one in California’s Anderson Valley and one in Spain. I was accepted at the University of Burgundy in Dijon in France to do a wine course in 2001. I didn’t want to do a full three year course as I already had practical experience in wineries, so I did a one year course that covered the science of winemaking. But the course was taught in French and my school French was not so good. I was learning French and wine science at the same time! In 2002 I worked as assistant winemaker at a winery in Chablis and moved to Australia in 2003.”
Lionel studied agronomics, plant physiology, and plant metabolism, and has worked in the chemical industry since he completed his studies. He moved to Denmark in 1998 to work in the food additives division of the multinational company Danisco where he now works as a marketing executive.
When in Sydney they started looking for a place to grow grapes and make wine. “For about eight months we looked at different regions and tasted many wines. We liked the wines from Heathcote,” says Peder. “We had the topographic and geological maps of Heathcote showing us where the cambrian soil was. Initially we didn’t think that anyone with a vineyard would want to sell it.
“Then we discovered that there was a small vineyard on an eighty-acre property near Toolleen for sale. Out came the maps and we identified the area as one we were interested in. The property was owned by a Melbourne couple, it had a house, five acres of vines that had been planted in 1995, nine hundred olive trees and a tractor shed. Within a week of hearing about it, we’d made an offer. We got the keys in January 2004 and we planted more vines that winter.
“Our first season was a very dry season but that seems to have worked out quite well for us. It was survival of the fittest for the vines. We lost around thirty percent, but the survivors are flourishing,”says Lionel. “The previous owners made wine with John Ellis from Hanging Rocks,” says Peder, “but we decided to do it all ourselves. The 2004 vintage was the first time I made wine all by myself. I was quite nervous about the winemaking, and we were also still setting up the winery.
“We converted the existing tractor shed into the winery but there was no power there yet. At one stage we bought ten twenty-five metre extension cords and linked them together to get power from the house to the shed. We had concrete trucks arriving to complete work around the winery as we were picking our grapes. But it all worked out well.”
“I need to maintain my off-farm job for some time but I still have time to look after our vines and keep them healthy,” says Lionel. “Peder makes decisions about winemaking, I make decisions about the vineyard and look after the business side, but we share most of the work. Many entrepreneurs are not so good at managing their finances. In my off-farm work I manage a really big business so I am used to doing budgets and cash flow analysis, and keeping the business on track. It is essential to have financial discipline.”
Although Lionel is a marketing executive in his off-farm work, they used outside expertise to develop a label and a brand for their wine. “We were lucky,” says Lionel. “I had good friends in a Sydney branding agency which does work for big multinational clients. They wanted a small, fun project to work on just as we were looking for label design and brand development. The branding exercise was interesting. We developed a profile of a typical customer. Not just things like their age, but also what type of car they drive, what type of house they live in, quite a lot of detail about them. We identified what was important to such customers and what would appeal to them.
“The branding exercise really worked for us. Our customers like a little mystery. We don’t do a lot of promotion. We don’t send samples to wine critics. We don’t enter wine competitions. We don’t seek medals. You have to be a bit curious to find us. Our label has very little information about us on it. It seems to work, we’ve already developed a good base of return customers.
“We are often asked about the name Heathcote II. Is it because there are two of us? Or is it because we do all the work ourselves with no staff? We are close to Toolleen in the Shire of Campaspe, yet we too are in the Heathcote wine region. If you look carefully at our back label you’ll see our names. We like a little mystery and so do our customers.”
Peder and Lionel have a good understanding of what they know and when they need expertise. As in the area of branding, they also seek expertise in other areas. “A vital area is temperature control. We sought expertise in that area. It is time consuming to seek out expertise, but climate and temperature control is key to maintaining wine quality. We are very happy with our temperature and humidity controlled cellar which sits alongside our winery. We don’t save on what’s really important,” says Lionel.
The winery was the tractor shed when Peder and Lionel arrived. The shed walls are still there, but on three sides a new double stone wall has been constructed by a stonemason. A new machinery shed has been built around a steel frame with stone walls on three of the four sides. The shed builder had the interesting challenge of adding a section with a sloping roof so that the solar cells would be angled correctly when added.
What is their main challenge? “The vineyard has been the most work so far, there are so many things to do, and the work is constant. We build in some downtime to visit our families in Europe, and we’ve just finished renovating a house in Heathcote. We like to support the local businesses,” says Peder. “In other countries it is very common to have a regional tasting centre in the centre of a wine region, run by an independent business, which would be good to see in Heathcote,” says Lionel.
Cellar Door opening hours:
10am – 5pm weekends
Both Peder and Lionel have enjoyed the good collaboration among the wineries across the region. “We’ve received wonderful support from other winemakers when we’ve needed local knowledge. We’ve been really impressed with the friendliness of the wine community. That’s something that you don’t see when you work for a multinational company,” says Lionel.
$49.50 in any dozen
$55.00 per bottle
Medium dark in colour, with a purple edge. Mulberries and perfumed violets dominate the nose, followed by some smoky oak characters. The taste shows good acidity with great sweet ripe red fruits layered on mineral undertones. The Myola has a very good level of texture, with dry tannins on the finish. In 2012 the Myola is a blend of 35% Cabernet Franc, 35% Merlot, and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon.